The Triangular Slave Trade.

Much of Bristol’s wealth and influence between the 17th and 19th centuries was derived from its strong links with the triangular slave trade. Triangular shaped slaves were ideal for transporting across the oceans because more could be packed into the hulls of ships.

Being jammed in on a long sea journey upside-down was nothing compared to the fate which befell one unfortunate triangular-shaped slave on a crossing to the USA in a Bristol based ship in 1774. He had the misfortune to be captured while wearing a pair of very colourful shorts. As a result, he was instantly hauled upon deck, flogged, tortured, interrogated and then hung on suspicion of being the Bermuda Triangle.

Once in America the triangular-shaped slaves were sold at auction and then used as road traffic signs, due to a shortage of metal. Their real names and dignity being stripped from them and replaced with new slave names such as ‘Loose Chippings for 1 Mile’, ‘Level Crossing’, and ‘No Parking Between 9am-6pm’. Often the sort of road sign the slave became had a detrimental effect upon their lives and those of their families. Sevron Vulvek, for instance, who became a ‘No Overtaking’ sign in Memphis, found that his wife and kids never played snakes and ladders with him thereafter. Similarly, Myrille Hans found her husband Ronnie was unable to start the family they so desperately wanted after she became a ‘No Entry’ sign in Birmingham, Alabama.

When all the slaves were freed after the Northern States triumphed in the American Civil War; a lot of triangular-shaped slaves returned to Bristol. But the sign they had been still had a lasting impact upon them. Benjamin Hassle who had been a ‘Reduce Speed Now’ sign in New Orleans, Louisiana, joined the Drugs Advisory Service in Knowle West; while Neil Trevelleyn who had been a ‘Dead End’ sign in Louisville, Kentucky, found he could not break free from the monotony of a series of low paid jobs, despite possessing a degree. Peter Deerswood, who had been a ‘Danger: Low Flying Eagles’ sign in Dallas, Texas had to be confined to a mental institution upon his return to Bristol, as he was convinced he was a member of the Royal Family because he had been so used to people bowing in front of him.

All in all it could be said that the triangular-shaped ex-slaves were not received terribly well upon their return to Bristol. Indeed, only a couple of people in the city were ever glad to see them. Those were the beleaguered managers of Bristol City and Bristol Rovers, who always embraced the triangular ex-slaves whenever they encountered them, because it was one of the few chances they got to see three points.


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